Portrait Painting: “The Path to Enlightenment” or “The Penny Drops”

The never-ending quest for artistic improvement is a search for “eureka” moments. Those moments when the penny falls with such a clatter that your art jumps up several notches out of fright.

Here are a few of my past eureka moments:

  • Discovering that concentrating on tone rather than line makes drawings seem less cartoonish. (One day, when I am brave enough, I will post some of my early self portraits…. shudder)
  • My TAFE art teacher suggesting that I check angles of features with my pencil. (A likeness! Finally!)
  • My oil painting teacher advising me to mix both warm and cool variants of light, dark and mid tones for flesh. (Natural-looking skin tones!)
  • Stumbling across the idea of cool lights/warm shadows and vice versa – and understanding that pinks can be cool.
  • And segue to… finally getting the hang of the idea that all colours have cool & warm variants.

In between these moments, I plod along, waiting for the next leap. I am busy searching for one now…

My current search method:

Practice, practice, practice

Sometimes, incessant drawing results in happy discoveries.

Last Friday, I joined Julia Kay’s Portrait Party on Flickr. It’s a group of over 600 artists who have all posted photos of themselves. We are all drawing and painting each other so I hope to practice more regularly in a mutually supportive, if virtual, environment.

I went back to basics with my first two:


Dan for JKPP

Dan for JKPP in charcoal

Juan for JKPP

Juan for JKPP in graphite

I also completed this commission of the lovely Faith last weekend, so I guess that counts as practice:


Following contemporary artists I admire

I have been following Alicia Sotherland on Facebook for a while but have recently discovered a very active New York artist, David Kassan. He is phenomenally talented – taking the traditional and giving it a slightly contemporary twist. Then there is the lovely Ben Quilty, with his recent passionate portraits of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Alicia Sotherland: http://www.aliciasotherland.com

David Kassan: http://davidkassan.com

Ben Quilty: http://www.benquilty.com/

I bought an iPad. Did I mention I bought an iPad? I bought an iPad.

So I am slightly infatuated with my new purchase, but there is just so much to love. And to prove my point (after seeing some fabulous iPad work by the aforementioned Kassan), I have started using it to create art. After consulting a number of art forums, I bought the Artrage app and a stylus… and have ordered a brush stylus. I intend to use the iPad as a sketchbook – I’m hoping that having an “undo” button and wasting less precious (and costly) paint will allow me to be more creative.

Here is my first ever iPad portrait painting! It is also for JKPP. So I’ve been keeping myself quite busy, artistically.

Hey – did I tell you I bought an iPad?

Kristine for JKPP

Kristine for JKPP using Artrage on the iPad


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Related posts:

  1. Creation of a Portrait Painting: Work in Progress “Girl with Watermelon”
  2. Child Portrait Painting: “Tea Party” or “The Bossy Artwork”
  3. Child Portrait Painting: “Ruby” or “Why can’t I beat my record number of Likes??”


Filed under Portrait Artists, Portrait Paintings, Portraits

5 Responses to Portrait Painting: “The Path to Enlightenment” or “The Penny Drops”

  1. Great list of aha moments – I’ve been sorting through a few lately myself. Butt even your ‘back to basics’ are super – great fun having you at the party!

  2. Thanks, Julia. I’d love to hear your Eureka moments – they might save me some time!

    And am loving the party, as you can see!

  3. It’s sort of embarrassing but I don’t remember exactly what aha-s I was having when I wrote that!

    I know I was playing with the new water soluble oil paints that week – I hadn’t used oils in a couple decades, and they really are different from acrylics in how they handle. When I switched back to acrylics I found that I was handling the acrylics more fluidly, and more like oils, because of having had the oils in hand.

    I also bounce back and forth between trying and not trying in my art making. That is, I try to draw a beautiful, descriptive contour line, I try to get a likeness, I try to draw trees (which I find extremely difficult!). And then I draw (or paint) with both hands simultaneously, or with my feet, or with my eyes closed, or by making lots of chaotic marks using any possible method and watching to see what emerges rather than consciously directing it. I often prefer the latter class of work but one aha recently has been that the free pieces work better, the better I know the subject. So for any new subject first I need to ‘try’ and then, very importantly, I need to stop ‘trying’.

    Well off to ‘try’ to complete a late commission.

  4. John Butler

    Hi there.
    I have a problem with colour matching. I am painting a portrait using thin layers of burnt sienna and ultramarine oils to give me a shaded side. I thought of using cadium red light for the sunny side. Because it matches the cool orange on the shade. However, the sunny side just looks washed out. PS I have used a light blue green on the background. Can you advise?

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